Morgan Alford, 18, will put her $2,000 Youth of the Year scholarship to use this fall at the University of Georgia.
For a career, she is considering either civil engineering - her declared major - or veterinary medicine. But the Southeast Bulloch High School senior already has quite a career of community service and school activities. From six Youth of the Month honorees, all seniors at local high schools, the Exchange Club of Statesboro chose Alford for the largest award presented at its Youth of the Year luncheon Tuesday.
"It's amazing that they'd find me, out of all these other amazing students, to be the most deserving of it," Alford said. "I think it shows a good reflection of how well my parents did raising me, raising me up to be a servant and a leader."
Her parents are Rob and Wanda Alford of Brooklet.
As a Southeast Bulloch High School Beta Club member, Alford has collected canned food on Saturday mornings at Ken's IGA for donation to the Statesboro Food Bank. Along with other Beta Club members, she has helped Keep Bulloch Beautiful with cleanups and raised money for The Children's Hospital in Savannah.
"We pretty much do it all," she said.
As senior class secretary, Alford also does community service projects with the SEB High School Student Council.
She joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while playing softball in middle school and is now an FCA huddle leader. Also an FFA member, she did career development projects through that organization, "which gives you a lot of opportunity to explore what you might want to do in your future," she said. She went to FFA state competitions in livestock judging and landscape design in different years.
With her grades and ACT score, Alford has also earned a state Zell Miller Scholarship, awarded to the top 10 percent of students in the HOPE program. This year, she has taken one course each semester at Georgia Southern University while finishing her studies at SEB.
She is involved in Brooklet United Methodist Church and the Young Life program in Statesboro.
Through her school's work-based learning program, Alford works afternoons at a law firm, running errands and filing paperwork. Dancing, she mentioned, is also part of her busy schedule. She has studied dance with Southern Dance Academy in Brooklet since she was 4 or 5.
"It's hard to get everywhere," Alford told reporters. "There's not enough hours in the day."
To qualify for Youth of the Month, and ultimately Youth of the Year, high school seniors must have a cumulative "B" average or better, take college prep courses and plan to attend a college or university. Beyond that, they must participate in at least four school-related extracurricular or community service activities.
"Each of them are highly involved in their schools, in the community, in sporting activities," said Brannen Smith, the chairman of the Exchange Club's Youth of the Year Committee. "They're very well-rounded young adults."
The other 2013-14 Youth of the Month honorees are Bulloch Academy's Lindsay Brannen; Portal High School's Alyssa "Josie" Barns; Southeast Bulloch's Ana Olsen; and Statesboro High School's Kwanjai Wilson and Josh Wright. Each received a $100 check from the Exchange Club.
School counselors nominate students for the award. Alford praised Southeast Bulloch High School counselor Katherine Wellman.
"She's awesome. She's so helpful," Alford said. "Anything you need, take it to her and she'll help you solve your problem, whatever it may be."
The nominated students wrote essays on "Creating the Spirit of Community Service with Passion and Commitment" and spoke to the club before the final selection.
Youth development is one of the Exchange Club movement's four programs of service, noted Exchange Club of Statesboro President Joe Lanier. The other areas of service are Americanism, community service and child abuse prevention.
Chartered in 1993, the Exchange Club of Statesboro has presented a Youth of the Year award since 1995-96. The awards are a big project for the club, which has about 45-50 members.
A major fundraising event that supports the awards is the club's Million Dollar Shootout, a hole-in-one golf contest. This year's will be held May 1-3 at Hacker's Golf Park, Lanier announced.
Mayor Jan Moore was featured speaker for Tuesday's luncheon. Noting that her other job is as a behavior intervention specialist and special education supervisor for the Bulloch County Board of Education, Moore said speaks from the heart when talking about youth.
"Your parents and teachers and church leaders and neighbors and employers and Exchange Club representatives see great potential in you, potential to make a real difference," she told the Youth of the Month winners. "That is why you are being honored here today. I foresee great things in each of your futures."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.